Sikhs take French turban ban in schools to Europe’s highest human rights court
In March 2004, after years of controversy, the French government banned the wearing of overtly religious items in schools such as the Islamic headscarf, Jewish skullcap, heavy Christian crosses and the Sikh turban. Five French Sikh schoolboys were subsequently expelled for refusing to take off their turbans – another failed to be admitted to a school.
MRG partner United Sikhs took the case to France's highest administrative court, the Conseil D'Etat, which upheld the expulsion of three of the schoolboys in December 2007. However United Sikhs lawyers have now filed a legal challenge to the French law at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg – it will be the first case against France since it passed the law in 2004.
Cynthia Morel, MRG's Senior Legal Advisor, who acts as legal research consultant for the cases, says, "This case demonstrates that focus on equality in its purest sense leaves a range of minorities and vulnerable groups behind. It is imperative that France officially recognises its minorities and adopt special measures to meet their needs."
France is only one of four of the 46 members of the Council of Europe not to have signed the Framework Convention on National Minorities.